Allie got off the camp bus and a gaggle of friends were eager to tell me that Robert had asked her to the Halloween dance. I think I played it appropriately cool - as much as can be expected of a mom at this stage. Robert seems sweet. Allie seemed pleased and at ease with the ask, and said she was fine with accepting.
On the way home, and in two different conversations with three different friends since yesterday, I heard, "[Other Boy] asked [Other Girl] to the dance. I don't think she's really interested, but she felt
couldn't say no. She felt bad." and then, "I know. I wouldn't be able to say no either." and "Me, too."
It came up today in soccer travels. I hope you don't mind (Moms whose kids were trapped with me in the car at the time) - I needed to talk to Allie about this, so I took the opportunity and said something like, "You know what, girls? I think it's really great that you understand how hard it is for a boy to get the courage up to ask. And that your first inclination is to be sympathetic. It's hard to say no. But there are several ways you can say no - it doesn't have to be in a mean way." They agreed that is it hard for the boys - and then someone said that if So-and-so asked, it would be ok to be mean - giggle-giggle (keepin' it real).
I continued, "You can say, 'Thanks, but I've already made arrangements to go with my friends.' or 'Thanks, but I'm not really ready to do the "going out" thing.'" [in hindsight/thought, another option is, "Thanks, but I'd really like to just stay friends for right now."] I let them know, "This is a hard time. The boys are worried and confused about what to do just like you are. If you are honest and let them know how you feel, they'll appreciate it. Girls mature somewhat faster than boys and they might be really grateful if you're able to say the words that you're both thinking. It would be a relief. Just be honest with yourself and with them." I quickly added, "This goes for a lot of things. First asks, first dates, first kisses..." and left it at that.
It was a conversation, not a lecture, and the girls were open and appropriate. I think it was a good moment. This is such a small and innocent way of starting the conversation about saying "no" and meaning it. It's good for them to think about what they're ready for, have a plan of action and to know it's OK to say "no." Empowering our girls now, with the relatively small stuff, may help them find a voice later should they need a more powerful NO. It seems like a long-time away (kind of like November felt like a long time away 2.5 weeks ago) and a foreign concept to think about, but hearing, "...she felt she couldn't say no" and three other girls agreeing was a wake-up call for this mama.
I wanted to share this with you because two girls (in addition to Allie) were subject to the 'Sermon in the Car'. But I thought others might like to know what's kicking around in our girls' minds - generally. This is a topic close to my heart for many reasons, so I'm a bit earnest. I beg your pardon if I worried you, or if you feel that I overstepped by bounds in speaking this afternoon, or if this email feels like an overreach. My intention is to inform and support, and for the love our wonderful young ladies - whom I have said, and will continue to say, are some of the best kids I've ever known.
We also love how this mom shared this interaction with the other parents. She not only kept them informed and shared her perspective, but facilitated the opportunity for these conversations to be continued and work together to support their children (and one another). It does take courage to talk about these issues with other parents because not everyone will agree. Some parents may even express points of view that concern or shock us - but it's better to know and take this information into account for the future than to not know.
Our final point is that these kids were empowered to understand that they were allowed to be in control and prioritize their own bodily comfort and right to choose for themselves. They weren't told to sacrifice their personal comfort for the sake of another person's ego, and hopefully the boys in question will have an opportunity to learn to deal with rejection with an equal level of maturity and respect. These young men need be supported by the adults in their lives to understand that a no isn't a measure of their self worth, nor is it an invitation to try harder or to respond with animosity.
Have you experienced a teaching moment like this? Please share your experience and thoughts with us in the comment section!